Lofoten Islands are Norway’s northwestern outpost of civilisation. Above the arctic circle, the islands experience midnight sun from the end of May, while frequently enjoying the Northern lights during winter time.
There is certainly no better meeting location than Lofoten in case you’re working on a project dealing with both mountains and fisheries at the same time.
Lofoten are both the place of astounding nature, and traditional fishing business. Coastal cod fishing, fish drying, whaling and salmon breeding are dominant occupations among the natives. The major harbors and airport cities offer a number of small business and traveller hotels, while Norwegians will recommend a traditional fishing village (called Rorbu) with their sailor cottages as meeting or conference location.
The islands are somewhat on the edge of the world – which requires a sacrifice for the meeting participants, but at the same time will make sure they stay for a while. Tourism, however, is very seasonal. Outside the summer season (June to Septemper), you can’t expect all local restaurants or tourism businesses to be available without prior reservation. Call ahead if in doubt!
What to do
Conference side activities on Lofoten islands are numerous. You’ll have to decide, and make sacrifices on sightseeing, eating, hiking, biking, fishing climbing or scuba diving. Get organized in time!
Popular activities are:
- Rent a boat, and go fishing! The fishing villages will rent out ‘rorbu’ cottages right on the seafront, often with a boat included and a large freezer available for your catch. However, be aware that tidal currents are infamous between the islands and along the coasts – get thorough information & instruction on how to avoid these before you leave!
- Take a look at the Lofoten Viking Museum in Borg. The 60-meter long house reconstruction building was raised on an archaeological site where a Viking tribe built one of the largest known viking houses. Today’s reconstruction offers several sections inclusing a dining and assembly room and a museum section, where staff in Viking costumes explain the history of the place and some Viking culture.
- Use the west coast’s numerous sandy beaches with turquoise water and dramatic mountain silhouette for your enjoyment (and swimming, depending on water temperatures).
- Hike Lofoten’s dramatic mountains, which offer hiking altitudes literally from zero to over 1000 meters. Particularly the mountains on Moskenes, the southernmost of the big islands, are utterly dramatic close to the uncomprehensible. Canyons, waterfalls, shark-teeth shaped mountains grinded down by prehistoric glaciers, and steep walls down into lakes and fjords will impress any aplinist.
- Scuba dive around the Lofoten! Dry suit experience recommended! Bring your scuba certificate!
- Visit Nusfjord, a protected, traditional Lofoten fishing village. Most of the catch processing buildings are museums, while the fishermen’s quarters are available for tourists. Dramatic scenery in a remote fjord. Fancy outdoor hot tub view a view of the fjord!
- Visit Å i Lofoten, which, with its population of about 100 is still a fully operative fishing and cod drying village. In addition, you can rent seaside cottages and fishing boats. While in Å, take a look at the Lofoten Stockfish Museum!
- Whale watching is another highlight. Killer whales and mink whales are roaming around the islands. In addition, you can eat whale in local restaurants or buy it in supermarkets. Norway manages its vast Mink population with strict catch quota management, while hunting any other whale species is strictly banned.
Where to stay
Lofoten offers many alternatives to the few larger business hotels. You can choose according to your activities and budget. You can legally put up a tent on your hikes anywhere at least 150m from housing (unless posted otherwise), or use the hiking cottages for short-term stays. For a post-meeting weekend, you can get a camping van. You can stay at Bed & Breakfasts, rent a fishing cottage for some days, or sleep on your fishing boat. If you happen to hit main season (June to August), then you should get reservations ahead of time to avoid loosing precious time searching for alternative hosts.
Some recommendations are:
- The Norwegian trekking association DNT maintains two hiking and mountaineering cottages: Selfjordhytta and Munkebu. You need to sign up for membership (ca. 500 NOK per year), and you need to check out the cottage key with local shops as described on the linked cottage pages. Selfjordhytta is a few meters off an unpaved road, with many opportunities for local hikes, and an astounding passage over a ridge to a beautiful beach. Using Munkebu will bring you up a steep trail into the center of Moskenes’ dramatic high mountains, facing the over 1000m high Hermansdalstinden summint from a ridge on the other side of a canyon.
- The islands’ west coasts offers the old fishermens’ and sailors’ quarters virtually in every single place with a boat landing. Called ‘Rorbu’, these cottages on wooden poles reside right by the sea, usually providing an opportunity to attach your fishing boatnearby. Some scenic places are Nusfjord, Hamnøya and Å (see above).
- If your meeting happens in Leknes’ Best Western hotel, then you ended up in one of the most boring locations around. Getting out & around is a must!
Transport planning is important for your visit on Lofoten. Distances are long (Leknes airport to Å is nearly 100km), and bus service is sparse. There are some local boat services (particularly around Kjerkefjord). Your choice of transport depends on your planned activities – a rental car might just be a waste of money if you go fishing, or plan a crossing hike from Selfjord to Munkebu.
These are your transport options on Lofoten:
- Getting there: By plane via Oslo with SAS/Wideroe to Leknes or Svolvær on the islands, or to Bodø on the main land. From Bodø, just as from Tromsø, Hurtigruten ferry service connects both Moskenes and Stamsund, which are important ports . The ferry crossing from Bodø takes about 5 hours. In case you’re travelling on a conference cruise up the Norwegian coast, you can get off the boat at Lofoten – the best place to escape a boring conference on that route!
- Taxi service is available, but priced according to good Norwegian standard. Avoid rides out of town in a taxi!
- There are buses running up and down the main highway E10 and into side roads, which in main season during the summer service the road all the way down to Å and on the side roads several times per day. However, many brave men have cried in despair over Norwegian public transport web pages, which only make sense when you’ve been born in the area.
- Get a rental car! The airports host the usual suspects in cer rentals. Leknes and Stamsund have their own local rental companies with varying service levels and prices. Price orientation as of 2010: 6 days small car rental cost 3000 NOK. A car is your best bet when you plan to use several locations, some of the beaches, the cottages or the mountains.
Where to eat
Eating options are very much dependend on the seasion. Summer season offers many restauratns, marinas and cafés around Lofoten, while off-season visits will confront the visitor with retaurants that are open on weekends only, and small villages where the general store or the gas station are the only source of food.The restaurants offer a wide variety of fish and meat dishes, where Bacalao, cod, mussels, whale and locally bred lamb are local specialties.
Some restaurant suggestions are:
- Skjærbrygga in Stamsund is a former fish reception/processing dock in the port. Today, it hosts a hotel and a fancy, rustical restaurant where you can land your boat right on the edge of the restaurant’s terrace.
- A less fancy alternative that is open off-seasion is stamcaféen in Stamsund. This is the local bar, café, native meeting place, and bistro. You’ll find it on the corner of Steinevn and J.M. Johansens vei , at the end of the harbor basin with the Hurtigruten terminal.
- Brygga Restaurant in Å offers a scenic view of the fishing village, and a decent menu for hungry tourists. Address: Å RORBUER & Brygga Restaurant, Å i Lofoten, N-8392 Sørvågen, Lofoten Islands.
- In Reine, at the mouth of Kjerkefjord, you can eat at the Gammelbua Restaurant. This is, of course, the center of yet another old fishing village. However, they do have all of: Food, conference room, marina, boats, a view, and hiking trails.
- Ramberg gjestegård offers a restaurant, cottages and a campground right on one of the longest beaches on Lofoten – in the small town of Reine on Flakstad island.
- Hamnøy mat og vinbu is a pub built into the old general store on Hamnøy island. It is small, but – as you can expect – rents our fishing huts. The scenery around Hamnøy is most dramatic, and in addition, the location offers quick access to a local museum and fish shop with local products just down the bridge on the next island – Sakrisøy.
What to bring home
- Dried fish – called stockfish – is a local food tradition valued all over the world as an ingredient for Bacalo, fish stew and fish balls.
- Smoked whale meat (check with your local customs regime first!)
- Warm woolen hats and sweaters crafted from locally produced Lofoten wool.
- Some artists produce glass art, pottery and iron objects (there is a sculpting blacksmith with a studio on Flakstad island).
Maps & further information